Many of us working in the fashion industry are familiar with the name Angela Donhauser, she’s one of Threeasfour, the eccentric NYC design trio formerly based in NYC’s Chinatown. What many of us don’t know about Angela is that she is also a visual artist in the medium of photography – perhaps, you have seen her work on her Instagram account @angelunaluna – you’d know if you had, her work is memorable on so many different levels.
On a perfect May spring afternoon, I sat down with Ange in her new Gramercy Park abode, drank rose in her garden and talked about her inception into the art world.
Describe your creative process? Is it just you by yourself in the studio or do you have a few minions pressing buttons for you?
Well right now I don’t have a studio (she laughs) and I don’t have any minions either. The whole thing started out…( she pauses) Can I tell you how it started:
It was triggered 3 years ago, I had Lasik surgery done, I was blind as a bat and had worn big 70’s secretary glasses and then all of the sudden the day after the surgery I could see. It just kind of propelled something inside me, because before I could never pick up a camera, I just couldn’t see and then I started taking pictures subconsciously on the iPhone and then a dear friend of an artist from Iceland told me, “you have to do it with a professional camera, go invest in a camera because you have to think of the future.
So I saved some money and did that and then all of the sudden it became serious for me, it was a platform to completely express all the little stories and vignettes that I had happening in my head. I’m a very spontaneous expressive person so you know I ended up shooting for one and a half / two years almost every single day. Anything would spark an idea even walking into my 99 cents store in Chinatown and would see something and I had a vision already.
So you had no technical background in photography?
No, not at all, I don’t think I’m even able to take pictures of anybody else. I’m like where do I even look (she laughs) I learned how to put it in and then download. I had not a single clue, completely jumped into the cold water.
It’s all me and I like that part, it’s self-sustainable in a sense and I don’t depend on anybody else because a lot of the times I do it in the middle of the night in my own privacy. I start naked like the naked canvas and then I spray glue some shit on top of myself and then you know the story in my head through the visual image that I choose just creates a visual poetry.
What’s the advantage of using yourself as a model?
You’re always available (laughing) you don’t cost anything, you work for free and the teamwork is always there.
One thing I must say I’m happy and I’m lucky that the camera loves my face and that I’m able to go through all those transformations because I’m like a chameleon …..and then I do also think I would have been an amazing drag queen …
And you are the makeup artist, hair stylist, prop stylist – you do it all?
Yeah, I don’t think about it in that way but I guess I am
You’re a one-man show
A one creature show (laughing)
What Inspires your characters?
So many different things, life in general. Life as I have experienced it or just as a form of my observations. A lot has to do with love and connection, I believe that’s the most important. Also, the dysfunction of it as well, and the lack of it, the rejection of it, and all the pain because it’s not just like “yeah you know everything is beautiful”
It’s the ups and downs right?
Yeah, for me all of what is most inspiring are Heartbreaks.
Your work has many different facets, there’s humor, there’s sarcasm, there’s politics, there is race and sexuality. You explore many different topics in your work – can you explain why you insert these topics as part of your art?
That’s what drama is in a Greek way, its drama and comedy as one, you can’t take one out of the other. It’s always a reflection of human life in general.
Do you ever feel like you need to censor your characters – to make sure you don’t offend someone?
No – well not in the origin of making it but it depends on where it goes.
I saw on your Instagram an image with you holding a black baby. I loved that one and the message that came with it which was about unity and love
I know but I got so much hate for that and I was shocked, it made me think people are still so… it’s incredible- the term black face came up and I’m like you did not get the message because you’re not really listening and your not really looking, people are so brainwashed and so full of fear and so politically correct and I think as an artists you can’t be politically correct cause who’s correcting you in the first place. Then you become a victim. As an artist, you must be completely free.
I don’t think art should be censored – I think as an artist you should always be free to do what want to express yourself – you know
Yeah, let me tell you one story. Two years ago a friend of mine who was curating an outdoor art show in a public space somewhere in Texas. I sent him images and it was going to be a slide show of my images projected on a big screen and on the very last minute I was like how’s it going? and he was like …awwww. Apparently, somebody saw the work ( I believe it was a lawyer) and threaten to sue them because there were some nipples involved and there was another image where I had guns glued on my face and because the message was ” the root of all evil” this and that – they took it down.
It was disappointing to me because you think that the people in the Arts will fight for the Arts but no they chickened out because there’s always something.
And there’s always money involved
It’s America – sue, it’s the magic abracadabra – like magic.
You always have a great Quote that follows your character – do you think about the quote during the making or after each piece?
You know I was given the gift of poetry, the gift of words. I don’t know where if comes from, I do believe in a such a thing as past life. For instance, I know that I must have been a writer in the past and a gay man (laughing). I don’t know a lot of times the quotes happen simultaneously and symbiotically. Sometimes I get an idea, I write something down and then the image will follow.
What about that image of a heart stitch onto your palm – was that all real?
Yes! I’ve been stitching all my life, so that was just a natural incident. It’s amazing how elastic the skin is, again another canvas when you think about it. What amazed me the most was that it wasn’t painful and it didn’t bleed. But the marks of the heart itself stayed for a whole week.
Did you take any pictures of it?
No – but it was a beautiful reminder. But I see hearts everywhere I go. It’s always been a thing since I was a little girl. I’m a creature of love.
Cheers to LOVE!
So, What’s next – what’s to come what can we expect from you?
More LOVE, Love, love, love and you know life. I feel like I almost had a rebirth in a certain way. Like I let go of all my fears. Because being in New York for so long life becomes so stagnant in is a little bit of an imprisonment. You have a routine and certain fears become a routine as well. You know after we shed all of that then everything is a new and exciting adventure, every single day.
So, do you feel like you’re reinventing yourself?
Yeah, I’m letting inspiration and love be the ruler in my life right now.
portrait photography and Interview by JJ JIMENEZ